The AR-15 and home defense

By Guy Page

Recently I stumbled into a social media discussion that began with a meme saying AR-15s aren’t hunting weapons, are only good for mass killings, and must be banned.

I demurred: “ummmm. tell that to the person defending their home from an invasion of 2-3 people. Semiautomatic – great equalizer.”

The meme-posting gentleman – and he is a gentleman – responded, “Why would 2 or 3 persons be invading a home?” I answered: “To rob and rape – that’s how some crooks do it. Even if it’s just one person, a semiautomatic gives a better chance to stop a crook then the one-shot revolver, which takes time for hammer and cylinder to deliver subsequent shots. Who hits target with first shot? Not everyone.”

Unlike many gun critics, the self-styled ‘peace activist’ has a lifetime of experience with guns, both good and the bad. He grew up hunting as a teenager but had to hide the family’s handguns because his dad had threatened to kill his mom. 

He answered: “Since I live simply there is not anything worth stealing. Since I don’t feed my ego with expensive things I am more free to not worry about being robbed. If Folks ever work together for different equalities I suggest there will be less violence.”

To which I found myself wondering… your simple home are there no prescription drugs? No jewelry? No car keys? 

Three armed men attempting to enter the home of former Nascar driver Richard Childress, as seen on security footage (America’

But then another reader snarked at me: “oh yeah… because that [defense with AR-15] happens every day here in America. No ~ what happens every day in America is your “defense weapon” is used to kill groups of people.” (Actually 20 times since 2012. Which is 20 times too often, of course.)

Of the estimated 500,000 and three million times a year guns are used in self-defense, the popular AR-15 plays a part. Here are 10 examples that did make the news. 

Harris County, Texas (2013) – A 15-year-old boy saved both his life and the life of his 12-year-old sister by fending off a pair of home invaders with his father’s AR-15.

Rochester, New York (2013) – Two armed burglars retreated from a college student’s apartment after coming face-to-face with an unloaded AR-15. The rifle itself instilled enough fear to cause them to flee.

Ferguson, Missouri (2014) – During the Ferguson, Missouri, riots, nearly all businesses within a particular 2-square-mile area of the city were looted or destroyed—except for one. African-American men guarded the gas station and convenience store of a white friend from looters and rioters. They did so armed with an AR-15, a MAC-10 “machine pistol,” and a variety of handguns.

Houston, Texas (2017) – A target of a drive-by shooting successfully fended off the attack by using his legally owned AR-15 against his three armed attackers. He was able to hit all three men in the moving vehicle.

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (2017) – A homeowner’s 19-year-old son used an AR-15 to defend himself against three would-be burglars who broke into the home in broad daylight. The 19-year-old was later determined to have acted in justifiable self-defense.

6. Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017 – After a gunman opened fire on congregants inside First Baptist Church, a man living near the place of worship grabbed his AR-15 and engaged the shooter. The shooter subsequently dropped his own firearm and fled the scene as the courageous neighbor pursued him.

Oswego, Illinois (2018) – A man with an AR-15 intervened to stop a neighbor’s knife attack on a pregnant woman. The rifle’s “intimidation factor” was credited as a reason why the attacker dropped his knife.

Catawba County, Illinois (2018) – After his 17-year-old relative successfully used his own firearm to fend off three would-be robbers who attacked him in the driveway of his home, a man used his AR-15 to

Yuma County, Arizona  (2019) –  Sheriffs responded to a 911 call at 1:38 a.m. and discovered that four individuals breaking into a home were shot by an occupant wielding an automatic weapon. “The unidentified occupant with the gun fired several rounds, hitting all four suspects and ultimately killing one.” stop a threat from one of the would-be robber’s upset family members.

Davidson County, North Carolina (2017) – Richard Childress, retired NASCAR race car driver,  had an AR-15 ready nearby and ready to fire when three men tried to enter his home at night. The fact that he ultimately chose another weapon to repel the home invasion doesn’t negate the fact that he considered the AR-15 an option. 

Why the AR-15 makes sense for home defense – Gun owner/instructor Frank Proctor prefers the AR-15 as a home-invasion weapon of choice, particularly for relatively small, unskilled shooters – often an apt description for a woman in the home. 

“I choose the AR-15 for several reasons,” Proctor told “It is a very capable platform for home defense. With the right ammo, overpenetration is not an issue (I use Hornady).” (Overpenetration means a round travels through multiple surfaces and risks hitting an unintended target.)

AR-15 easier to learn and shoot – “The AR-15 platform is much easier to shoot well than a pistol or shotgun. Pistols require time and training to master and maintain proficiency. I shoot a pistol almost every day and feel comfortable with my capabilities with the pistol, but that is not the case for my wife, as well as most readers’ family members. My take on shotguns is also based on the other family members who may need to use it. The weight and recoil of the shotgun can be a load for smaller-framed shooters. The AR-15 in my house is less than 6 pounds, and the recoil impulse is much more manageable.”

“For all of these reasons, I feel that if the need arises for myself or someone in my family to defend us at home, the AR-15 is the best all-around tool for the job.”

And finally, the website has its own list of valid reasons for the semi-automatic rifle for home defense, in no particular order.

  1. You can mount a light, red dot sight and/or a laser to the rifle to make it easier to used and aim during the day or night.
  2. They have a reasonable recoil, making the gun – for many users – easier to shoot as compared to a defense-caliber shotgun or pistol.
  3. They can be customized to “fit” a variety of body types and shooting styles. They can be configured and adjusted for different shooting distances (less than 5 yards to more than 200 yards).
  4. The .223/5.56 self-defense round is appropriate for use within a home, even in an urban environment. Ballistic experts have found rounds from these calibers “dump energy” quickly and break apart or begin to tumble after penetrating the first barrier. Will rifle rounds go through walls? You bet. Will pistol calibers like 9mm, .40 and .45 go through walls? You bet. Will shotgun rounds go through walls? You bet. That said, there is significant evidence the .223/5.56 self-defense rounds penetrate no more than, and often less than traditional handgun calibers and many shotgun rounds.
  5. A rifle is much more capable of stopping a threat as compared to a pistol.
  6. Semi-automatic rifles are more accurate than a pistol or shotgun.
  7. Ammunition is (normally) readily available and (normally) priced within reason. Present time excluded.
  8. You can buy high-capacity magazines for many semi-automatic rifles. In a self-defense situation, you want to avoid manipulating the firearm at all except for pulling the trigger straight back. Law enforcement and civilians do not favor high-capacity magazines so they can shoot more rounds, they favor them so they can manipulate their gun less. If reloading is needed, it is possible but let’s be completely honest, in many self defense situations, ten rounds may not be enough.

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Categories: Commentary

32 replies »

  1. The .223 Varmint Rifle (aka AR 15) of my childhood, that I used to shoot groundhogs in our horse and cattle pastures, was, back then, just that, a good rifle for youngsters to handle, light weight, little recoil, inexpensive ammo. But that’s not the point.

    My question to the anti-gun people is short and direct. If I, my family, or my property are threatened by anyone, for whatever reason, can they protect me?

    I asked the police this question when, a couple of years ago, a fugitive bomb maker was trapped behind my place of business by a local SWAT team. There was no warning, no call from the chief of police. Six officers in full SWAT regalia showed up in my plant parking lot armed to the teeth with two police dogs. I ‘directed’ the chief of police (I knew him) to tell me WTF was going on. He explained and asked me to lock down the plant. I told two supervisors, and the three of us, without alarming the 30 or so other employees in the building, proceeded to go through the plant and lock the doors. As I went through the warehouse area, every time I opened a door, I thought, ‘this guy may be on the other side just waiting for me’.

    Long story short, they caught the guy in a neighboring village. He wasn’t easy to apprehend. He kicked the back window out of a police cruiser, injured an officer, tried to make a get-away, and was caught again. No one was killed. Nothing of significance made the newspapers. Just another day on planet earth.

    I later asked the police chief that question. Can you protect me? Can you guarantee that you can protect me? And if you answer, yes, what assurances do I have? How quickly can you respond to my call? Will you cover me, financially, for loss of property, or worse, loss of life? Is your guaranty insured or bonded?

    Of course, his answer was a resounding ‘no’. His recommendation was to arm myself.

    So. My question to these gun-control activists is the same I placed with our police chief. Can you protect me? That’s right – you, personally. Can you assure me that any threat, from someone carrying any gun, a knife, a hammer, a baseball bat, brass knuckles, whatever….. is covered personally by your guaranty of my safety, or that of my property, or, most importantly, that of my family. Because, if you can’t make that guaranty, personally, insured and bonded, than you have no business telling me what I should or shouldn’t do to protect what is dear to me.

    The nerve of these gun-control activists, many of whom have personal professional bodyguards… many of whom advocate for defunding or re-allocating funds from the police… to tell me how I should defend myself and my family is beyond the pale. As Charlton Heston announced several years ago at an NRA (National Rifle Association) convention – ‘Out of these cold dead hands’ is that going to happen.

    Post Script: the story about the SWAT team is true.

  2. I know it has become common place to enter the gun debate by attempting to refute accusations that “You don’t need…(then the list of objections) …that many bullets …a gun shaped like that …that “assault rifle” to go hunting …to make up for your male short comings …an instrument only designed to KILL others …to act out your juvenile fantasies. I suppose we can continue in this vain defending against these accusatory assaults. However, isn’t the issue that it is actually part of our culture now that others can presume to tell us what we need? Perhaps our response should simply be that we reject their intrusion. Let’s withdraw our permission for them to tell us how to pursue our happiness…get their “camel’s nose” out of our tent. Our interest in guns and why isn’t any of their (or the Government’s) business, any more than how often we change our underwear or what color socks we wear on Tuesdays. If we commit an actual gun, underwear or sock crimes we’ll expect to see them. Otherwise stop your intrusive nosiness laws and leave us alone

      • As I watched testimony given to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on S.30, a pro-second amendment individual retorted to a certain member of that committee: “Senator, the last time I checked, it wasn’t called the the bill of needs, it was called the bill of rights” or words to that effect. Wise words from a young citizen who “gets it”! We need more like him to step up and resist these blatant attacks (by the left) upon our constitutionally guaranteed rights.!

    • Love it Curtis ! The need argument is totally ridiculous. Try applying that to any of our other rights. Why do you need to be able to freely exercise your religion ? Why do you need to be able to speak freely, or have a free press ? Do you really need to be able to assemble peacefully ? Do you really need to be secure in your persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures ? etc. etc. Need is not nor should it be a criteria by which our rights should be judged by, never has been, never should be.

  3. You hear the window of your back door break. You grab your AR-15, Slap a magazine in and release the bolt to arm the platform. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun, knows that sound. That sound alone will make a home invader think twice about snooping around to see where that sound is coming from and you probably won’t have to fire a shot in fear or anger. The perp will probably leave your premises!

    • Sheppy14 — There is merit to having deterrence as part of you image management. Genghis isn’t likely to visit if it’s credible that you might eat him.

      • To quote Slo Joe, ” “If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun. … I said [to my wife] ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out, put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.” . Only problem is that at that point you are left with a double barreled club to defend yourself with. But then again who would be dumb enough to believe or do as Joe Biden would say ? Oh yea, I forgot, there are 78 million dumb “A”s who believed him at least once.

  4. With all of the uninvited migrants sashaying across the borders of the United States (yes, the Northern border too) and the defunding of police departments here, who is going to protect you and your family from MS-13 or others when seconds or minutes mean the difference between life and death of you and your family – who are you going to call? That’s what I thought!

  5. The anti-gunners are fixed in their views that ultimately guns have no place in polite society, but they fail to realize that we dont live in a polite society anymore. Politeness is enhanced by having a credible criminal justice system and Vermont has long left that concept behind. We have leftist authoritarians that preach mistrust and defunding of police while at the same time seeking to enact restrictions on how vulnerable citizens may defend themselves. To function effectively as a deterrent to crime, a firearm need not be fired, be pointed or even displayed openly. But you do have to admit, there are certain types of firearm that, when displayed defensively, do present a potent visual that strikes fear in the heart of even the most hardened criminal element, and the AR-style rifle is one of them.

  6. As someone who has awakened at night to the sound of an unknown number of intruders in my home, I assure your friend the gentleman that it does happen, even here in Vermont. And though 911 responded quickly, it would not have been quick enough if the intruders had been intent on doing physical harm to me or my family.

    • I have saved the video tape of the State Police at the Golden Dome stating it would take them 27 minutes to reach the school in my town from their barracks if they are called for some type of emergency. I am 2 minutes beyond that… closed IMO. Anything that happens at my home will be long over before they ever arrive. I will be sitting on the porch with my dogs waiting.

  7. Guy, my gut reaction to your “meme-posting gentleman” is, “It’s not as important if you have a lot of cash or things worth stealing. What matter more is what would the intruder thinks might be in your house worth stealing.” If someone breaks into your house hoping to find anything to steal and encounters you or one of your family, it doesn’t matter whether you have a $5000 Rolex or choose to live a life of poverty. Once that person is in your house, the most important question is not what is worth stealing, but how can I protect my family from someone who is bold (or stupid) enough to break into your house when you and family are home, Who knows what their agenda is? If your only option is to try to convince the suspect that there’s nothing here for him, so he should just leave, I wouldn’t have a great deal of confidence that such a strategy would work,

  8. Hey! Anti Gunners the AR15 does not stand for Assault Rifle 15. The AR stands for Armalite Rifle the company that developed it. It was on the civilian market before the military considered it for use. The reason the government wants to take them away is they don’t want you to have “equity” with them.

    • Comparing an AR to an M4 is not apples to apples either, no matter what lying former military politicians like “Mayor Pete” would have their gullible, dim witted believers believe. An AR does not have the fully auto option.

  9. While at a training at the Police Academy in Pittsford I was told by an instructor (a county Sheriff) that he experienced an incident in New York City, where, while in the normal course of walking down a street, he became aware of a couple of subjects that seemed to be focusing on him while they were walking in his direction. The instructor said he had a gut feeling that they meant him harm, and thus the story, as the focus of this class was about “go with your gut”. Anyways, the instructor said he made as though he was going for something in his pants pocket, and partially pulled back his jacket, revealing the butt of his service pistol, (it was in a shoulder rig) and badge. At that point the afore mentioned subjects crossed the street. The point of relating this incident is that we will never know how many times a crime is averted just by the knowledge, and yes even the suspicion, that a target is armed.

  10. ???? There is much discussion about the characteristics of different kinds of firearms. I know you’re just trying to educated folks who don’t know but you’ve got to know that they’ve already decided…guns are bad…details are irrevelant…they don’t want to know…”go away” they say in chorus. It’s like we’ve decided it might be a good idea to discuss the merits of porn with our mothers…oops, bad idea…they disapprove and really don’t want to hear it.

    • That maybe Curtis, but I will never give up trying to educate those who are willing to admit that they do not know enough about the issue, and there are still a lot of out there who are undecided, as proven by the record numbers of firearms sales since the election of Slo Joe and Co. 50% of which were 1sst time firearms owners. Those who know ,and espouse falsely, and/or ignorantly, I would agree, we have little chance of changing their minds with facts. To those tools of the left I would say I hope your nearest constabulary is not “only 5 minutes away” (for me, with luck it’s 10-20 minutes away !) when some dirtbag is kicking your door down, as you will have only seconds to decide your course of action.

  11. Sheppy14 states, “Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun, knows that sound.” Sadly, yes. In this country, far too many “on the receiving end” have been students, church worshippers, as well as customers in malls and grocery stores.

    When I was in the army many years ago, I carried the military version of the AR-15, the M-16, for 365 consecutive days. Upon discharge, I had no desire to fire such a weapon again. For those who feel they need to do so, perhaps an enlistment in one of the armed services or the National Guard would be just the thing for you.

    As to home invasions in Vermont: How many have been stopped by the home-owner using his/her AR-15? There are many other guns would be more than adequate.

    By the way, countless studies have shown that if you have guns in your home, your chances of getting shot by someone in your home are far greater than by an intruder.

    • John, The 2nd Amendment doesn’t say that you have to own any kind of firearm and you can make that choice no to. I have carried in my work for over 35 years and started shooting as a child with my father and brother. There were many times that I was happy that I had a firearm with me in shady places with no backup or communication during those years. Right here in Burlington and other cities and town, criminal felons have and carry illegal guns. Laws mean nothing to them.

      While you can have an opinion we all do but, It’s not your job or business to tell anyone else what they need, when they need it, why they need it or where. We do not live in a civil society and really never have. The talking point about the dangers of a firearm in the home is derived from suicide statistics. The media and activists ignore all of the crimes prevented by responsible people who do not believe as you do. My intent is not to convince you of anything, but that’s what your comment tried to do. My point is that it’s none of your business what the rest of us do or choose what to have for the safety of our families and ourselves. Do it your way, we will do it our way.

    • See John, your took my words out of context and tried to slant them to your political advantage. What I meant by “on the receiving end” was those perpetrators who have been breaking the law and have heard a bolt slamming forward arming that platform and were stopped as they were attempting to do you or your family harm. It doesn’t have to be an AR-15 or M-16, it can be an M1911 .45 ACP too. They all get their attention when they are sneaking through your house in the darkness.
      You see John – I too carried an M-4 and an M-9 during a combat tour. After I got used to the inconvenience of carrying and accounting for two firearms, I got accustomed to having them in my possession. I served for 35 years and was honorably discharged. I served while you and your family were enjoying the security that I and my fellow soldiers insured, so I don’t need you lecturing me about service.
      An AR-15 is a tool just as is a hammer, saw or a knife. All of those tools can be handled safely for good or used to kill or maim – but it is still, merely a tool. The difference is that if you and your gun grabbing friends take away my AR-15, the only ones who will have them are the bad guys, because they don’t abide by O’Biden’s laws…and as a wise man once stated; “the last time I checked, it wasn’t called the bill of needs, it was called the bill of rights!” God given!

  12. It’s helpful to hear of the experiences and vision of our neighbors. It can contribute to our decision making on important PERSONAL ISSUES as citizens. I fear the dilemma we face, however, is that there are those among us who wish to enter our personal space. They seem determined to abuse the democratic tool of majority rule to make decisions and impose them on us in the minority. How have we let community action invade our individual “pursuit of happiness” arena? We might want to re-think our votes for folks who make such mistakes.

  13. As the calls for more gun control, more gun bans and the general vilification of guns increases we must all keep in mind and keep reminding others that the 2nd Amendment does not give us the right to “keep and bear arms” any more than the 1st Amendment gives us the rights of free speech, religion, assembly, etc. Those rights come from our natural God or Creator and they are only “enumerated” in the Bill of Rights. No government gave us those rights and no government has the right to take them away. Other citizens may choose not to exercise those rights and might even hold those rights in contempt. They might even believe that the Bill of Rights and The Constitution are no longer applicable to a more urban, educated, kinder, gentler, etc., etc. (take your pick or add your own terms) society and time. But the Constitution and Bill of Rights are not meant to address particular situations-they are meant to address human nature and the constant and unending strong desire of mankind to always seek to have power and more power over other humans.

    Around 1990 and the first demands for a ban on AR 15’s a group of us devised a demonstration of the AR’s and comparison to other firearms. We had some politicians and reporters who were genuinely interested in learning about the issue. We had them fire handguns and rifles and showed them single shot, bolt, pump, lever action and semi-automatic firearms. At the end of the demonstration, we had them fire an AR with 20 rounds into a 30” circle from a range of 25’ as quickly as they could. At the same time I fired 5 rounds of 00 buckshot (which typically has 8-9 balls that are about .38 caliber) from a Winchester Model 12 shotgun as quickly as I could. I would finish long before the AR shooter. The 30” circle was a piece of ½ “ thick plywood and the AR target would have 20 small holes and some splinters. The shotgun target had 40 large holes where the back of the plywood was well splintered with the splinters blown far from the target. The Model 12 shotgun was introduced in 1912 and looked like any wood stocked, blued metal shotgun that grandpa would have on the wall or leaned in the corner of any farmhouse. The point was not that the AR was not dangerous, but posed the question “if you can ban the AR, why not ban a gun that shoots faster, with more projectiles and does a lot more damage even though it isn’t scary looking?” This is also a good demonstration for hunters who think that if we would just give up the scary black guns the gun banners would go away.

    That demonstration was a definitely a factor in getting those politicians and reporters to understand that the AR was not the magical killing tool the media has made it out to be and the only gun capable of doing all of the bad things.

    I strongly recommend that all pro-gun activists read the first 2 essays below; “Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs” and “A Nation of Cowards”. The third essay is a discussion of “Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs”.

    • In WWI some American soldiers were armed with Winchester Model 1897 pump 12 gauge shotguns nick named Trench Sweepers or Trench Brooms. They were so deadly at close range that the Germans lodge a diplomatic complaint against the use of this weapon. “On September 15, 1918, the German government officially protested the use of the shotgun in a note verbale”
      Imagine that ? In a war that saw the 1st time use of weapons like mustard, and phosgene gas, the Maxum Machine gun, aerial warfare, and tanks, the lowly 12 gauge shotgun was singled out as being to dangerous ! That’s why I have a Remington 1187 loaded with 3″ #4 buck close at hand in the house. I hope the dirtbags never figure it out, or there goes skeet and trap !

  14. The problem with “re-thinking our votes” for a lot of folks here in Vermont, is that since the invasion of the late 60s and early 70s the choices we have are between candidates that are a little left, left, way left, and wacky ! We need better candidates !

  15. Thank you for your service, Sheppy.

    A couple of points in regards to your last e-mail:

    1. You stated, “It (home defense) does not have to be an AR-15”. . I agree 100%.

    2. “An AR-15 is a tool just as a hammer..”: Absolutely no comparison. I’ve never heard that 17 high school students were slaughtered with a hammer.

    3. I have absolutely no problem with you owning an AR-15. As you, I was not issued an M-16 until hours of training. Ex-military as well as responsible hunters and sportsmen who have documented their skills are fine with me. I do, however, have a problem with untrained individuals being able to purchase such a powerful weapon. Just because one knows how to drive a car doesn’t mean he/she can drive an 18-wheeler. .

    It would be really encouraging if we could have a discussion on such an important topic without name calling. Ex. “gun grabbing friends”, “O’Biden”.

  16. John,
    An AR-15 is just a tool just as knife or hammer is. The same day as Sandy Hook in China (which has strict gun laws and took the guns a long time ago) there were 23 students stabbed at a school. Take the guns away and the crimes still happen…

    What gun it is doesn’t matter. Some prefer AR’s, others rifles others shotguns and yet others pistols. Frankly until one thinks through their particular home layout, how long it takes to get police there, how close the neighbors are and what kind of threat they fear or believe that they are facing it’s hard to say what is best. That’s why it’s best left up to the individual. Just like tools every type of gun has a specific purpose or at least a specific task it is good for. Just like the person in the article says having a large number of rounds is important to him because the police are almost 20 mins away. He may have to hold out for a long time, besides it’s not like the movies where one shot puts a criminal down. Look on Youtube you’ll find plenty of times that an officer with plenty of training has shot a criminal over 10 times before they stopped attacking him. That’s just one person breaking into your house, there are often 2 or 3.

    If those who hold your position on guns really cared about anyone other than your own fear you would be pushing for that education. I don’t think any 2nd amendment advocates would be upset with more training being offered from the government. Some would even agree to be trained beforehand as long as it was financially feasible.

    As for name calling it’s healthy and a good way to get out a little aggression towards those that continue time and time again to decide what our rights are when they were very plainly and obviously given to us by god.

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